It may have taken a tumble in the ratings this season but MasterChef Australia's newly crowned champion, Emma Dean, is feeling on top of the world.
"I'm feeling exhausted and running on adrenaline . . . what a whirlwind and what a buzz! I'm just dumbfounded," Dean told AAA.
The 35-year-old Melburnian, who was raised on a hobby farm in Epsom, Victoria, came from two points behind to edge out Northern Territory stockman Lynton Tapp in Sunday's final, with Samira El Khafir coming third.
Judge Gary Mehigan said the nailbiter was the closest finish since Julie Goodwin pipped Poh Ling Yeow in the first season in 2009.
"Lynton and I have been pretty good friends throughout and it's actually funny because we practised a lot of cooking - we were often the ones tinkering in the kitchen just trying out bits and pieces and we have quite a similar food style," Dean said.
"For us to make it this far, I couldn't have wanted a better finale really. I wanted us both to win. I really did."
Having lived and breathed MasterChef for the best part of a year, Dean said the hardest part about being on the show was the isolation from family and friends.
"We only get our phones and internet and I'm very social and get a lot of energy from getting out and about so it was very difficult for me," she said.
"At one stage I was like 'I just want to go out!'"
Dean, a former town planner who took a voluntary redundancy, applied for MasterChef on the advice of her chef boyfriend *Dan Ingram * and said her culinary victory eclipsed her achievements as a track cyclist representing Australia.
"This is heaps better," she laughed. "Dan and I only met last year and he said 'You should go on MasterChef - you're really good'.
"People use it as a platform for a lot of things and Dan and I had talked about opening a restaurant together, so for now I'm doing my part."
Dean's immediate commitment is to start writing the cookbook that forms part of her prize, then obtain work experience at some of Australia's leading restaurants before getting to work on her own venture.
"It will be in the inner city of Melbourne to start off with but ultimately it would be fantastic to have a little farm gate attached to it," she revealed.
"In the meantime, it will have the farm- gate philosophy of local, seasonal and regional foraged ingredients, and go from there."
As well as pocketing $100,000 to kickstart her restaurant, Dean also won an Alfa Romeo Giulietta, to the delight of her mum, who was jumping for joy at the finale."She was so happy! I went to uni for quite a few years and borrowed a lot of money so maybe I should give it to her."